“To Tidy Minds it May Appear Illogical”: How the Commonwealth Evolved from an ‘Imperial Club’ to an International Organisation
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The history of the Commonwealth is vast and multifaceted. It touches on myriad fields, actors, and eras, and reaches from the local to the global. Amidst the Gordian knot of Commonwealth history this thesis is about understanding the organisational history of the Commonwealth on its own terms, rather than as a derivative topic of other fields. Building on the premise that the Commonwealth today is an international organisation (IO), this thesis argues that the Commonwealth transitioned from an imperial club to an international organisation in the 1960s, hinging on the creation of the Commonwealth Secretariat in 1965. The creation and subsequent growth of the Secretariat was negotiated between the “expansionist” members who viewed the Commonwealth as an international organisation and argued for a strong, expanded Secretariat, and the “restrictionist” members who opposed Secretariat growth. The Secretary-General and his staff were a third group of actors that mediated between the expansionists and restrictionists and pursued a vision for the organisation that would appeal to all members. The weight of this project rests on case studies in logistics, membership applications, the Rhodesian crisis, and Commonwealth technical cooperation. These topics help foreground how the transition from club to IO took place. Through these case studies I argue that the management of Commonwealth meetings decisively influenced the future of the organisation and was instrumental in the expansionists’ vision of the Commonwealth as an IO prevailing by 1970. The debates and decisions of Commonwealth meetings are well known, but the process of planning and managing those meetings has shaped the evolution of the Commonwealth as much, if not more than the content of the meetings themselves.
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Preston Arens (2020). “To Tidy Minds it May Appear Illogical”: How the Commonwealth Evolved from an ‘Imperial Club’ to an International Organisation. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/16020